The WT Swimming Pool, Stereotypes, and Africa


This afternoon I took three children aged eight and ten to the WTAMU (a local university) swimming pool, found myself a comfortable chair, opened my book, and proceeded to read.  When I looked up I saw this:

“This isn’t a democracy anymore.

It’s a Ricktatorship.”

These words boldly stood out in white on a black T-shirt.  For those not from Texas, the Rick to whom the statement refers is the governor of Texas where I live.  Between the two sentences was a photo of a cop with a gun pointed directly at me, the reader of the quotation.  Looking at the woman, young, unkept, no makeup, pimpled, overweight, I never would have expected her to adorn herself with this particular shirt especially in this intensely Republican part of Texas.  Then it hit me; I was stereotyping. I felt a bit horrified with myself.  How can you tell by the appearance of a person whether they are liberal, moderate, or conservative.  You can’t.

 

I went back to reading which was perhaps a mistake.  When it first became a rather famous book, I purchased Say You’re One Of Them by Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian writer-he is originally from Nigeria.  It contains five stories some quite short and some of novella length.  Why has it taken me so very long to get through this book?  These are not stories one can sit down and casually read.  This volume of searing, well written stories tells of immense horrors. The settings of the stories include various countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, and Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  Today, I finally got around to reading the story from which the book gets its title.  Now I wonder how I can sleep tonight.  All the stories describe the lives of individuals brutalized by war, modern slavery, and ethnic and religious hatred.  All the stories are from the viewpoint of a child, the oldest of whom is sixteen.  Today’s story, the longest in the book, takes place in modern times in Nigeria.  If you do not already have some inkling as to Nigerian politics, the whys and wherefores of Boka Haram, the violence in the oil fields in the south, and the intensity of the rivalries and hatreds among the various tribal factions and Muslims and Christians, this story will both enlighten and horrify you.  The sixteen year old young man in the story is fleeing the north with many other refugees.  Although he is Muslim, his Muslim friends turn against him even though he had his hand chopped off for stealing a goat.  They think he is too moderate and does not hate Christians sufficiently.  The Christians with whom he is a refugee turn against him because he is Muslim.  His story is not uncommon.  Look at Syria, Iraq, the Congo.  The rest of the world needs to know.  Hatred and violence can occur anywhere.  What happens in a distant corner of our planet affects each and every one of us.

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